People are always asking me how I made it to the point I'm today in my career. While I can't cover my career's full extent, I want to share some valuable learning experiences. This week, we will discuss how I built my innovation self-confidence and what I learned early on in my career that shaped the future of my career.
Self-Confidence and Soft Skills
Looking back on my career, I realize it is all about building self-confidence. I am very thankful for those early leaders and organizations that invested heavily in me. Despite being a “know-it-all,” they didn't put me down but taught me how to be a leader and encouraged me to pursue my passions.
Wherever you are in your career, elements are existing that build up self-confidence. The first area revolves around team spirit and knowing how to build a team. Your self-confidence isn't about showing people up or being the smartest person in the room. It's about being a part of a team, knowing how to build a team, and leading a team. In the innovation game, there is no such thing as the lone innovator.
Early in my career, I fed off the press when they mention my name. As I progressed in my career, I learned just how important the team is over the individual. The second self-confidence building element is the belief that you can achieve and build things from what you have learned.
The third area is confidence in your communication skills and knowing how to communicate effectively. Another key area of self-confidence is being able to empathize with people. The last one is assertiveness, which is standing up for your ideas.
Like I said earlier, I want to walk you guys through some of my own experiences. My wife and I met when we were young and got married in our sophomore year of college. The summer after our wedding, my wife helped me get an internship at Anchor Industries, one of the largest producers of canvas products. My wife knew the family that owned the company and had mentioned that I was looking for an internship.
My initial job at Anchor was to go through and reverse-engineer the blueprints of their products as they were outdated. I started off doing drafting but also learned how to do time studies. One of the things Anchor built was pool covers. In the 1980s, they would get a blueprint of the pool cover and hand draw the pool on the factory floor. Then they would lay out edges, lay the fabric, stitch or weld it, and add other things to it. This process was slow, and I felt like I could do something better.
After my internship, I went back and designed an automatic pool cover layout plan for a project class I had at school. This project had a significant impact on Anchor's ability to make pool covers. I ended up working for Anchor and building out this program for a year. Because of my self-confidence in trying new things, I impacted Anchor Industries and built a lasting relationship with the company. To this day, Anchor Industries is still one of the biggest producers of pool covers.
After working with Anchor Industries, I worked with Deltek Microsystems, a subsidiary of Deltek. The company focused on the early stages of PCs and sought to create training materials for new PC users. I ended up there due to my success at Anchor.
At Deltek, I learned a lot about teamwork as it was a new company. Hired on as a manager of the company, this was my first time to experience leadership. Deltek pushed me to give talks and speeches and built my communication skills up. I also experienced failures at Deltek that taught me a lot. I learned assertiveness in this position, as I had to express my opinions and ideas to those around me. Asserting was new to me as it was only my second real job.
My boss at Deltek Microsystems, Bob Davis, my first mentor, taught me how to be a manager, take risks, and get back up after a failure. He also taught me to be self-aware and learn my strengths and weaknesses. Bob taught that if I wanted to be a good leader, I had to experience running the business and not just doing the software. I sat in just about every leadership seat at Deltek, from Finance and Marketing to IT.
My early career experiences built my innovation self-confidence. Each experience contributed to all the soft skills I needed to become the leader I am today. When looking at team spirit, both Anchor and Deltek had a massive impact on my understanding. It is vital to provide feedback to others and contribute your expertise to the team's ideas.
Both Anchor and Deltek impacted my self-confidence by giving me the chance to go out and try things. Deltek helped me approve my communication skills in a way that I could adapt my language to my audience. In the case of empathy, I learned to empathize with customers as well as employees. Deltek taught me to be assertive in pushing and selling your ideas. All these soft skills learned from these two companies were vital in future success with my innovation self-confidence.
To know more about how you can build your innovation self confidence, listen to this week's show: How I Built My Innovation Self-Confidence.